“We chased away an audience.” – New York Theater

“When I was a kid in the Bronx, I would go to the theater for $1.10,” says Emanuel Azenberg. Granted, that was a while ago; He is 88 years old. But he’s also a Broadway producer and general manager with nine Tony Awards, including one for lifetime achievement, and six decades of experience with a few hundred plays and musicals to date. And his analysis, which he explained in a TEDx Broadway Talk this week, is that Broadway has gone astray, and not just because of ticket prices — but definitely because of them.

Azenberg is so quotable that in a conversation with TEDx Broadway co-founder Damian Bazadona, Bazadona spent most of his time reciting earlier remarks by Azenberg:


“We have no agreed quality criteria. The value and the aesthetics and the taste have been devalued.”


“I don’t find it tragic, just sad that something so good is being eroded.”

Below are a handful of excerpts from the remarks Azenberg said directly. A video of his talk will be featured on the TEDx Broadway website.

A hundred years ago, Broadway opened 270 times a year; There were 90 theaters. Now there are 35 theaters and 35 openings.

When A Chorus Line opened, the top ticket price was $15. That’s no joke. And now it’s $250 to $500. We chased away an audience.

Theater owners hate unions, unions hate producers, and producers hate theater owners. None of them prevail and all take it out on the customer

Here’s a list of people who started in theater, got started on Broadway, and left again. (Some came back occasionally): Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Duvall, Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney, Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Julie Harris, Annette Bening, Alan Bates, Robert Redford… you name it you more? What happened? We lost her… Theater must be the queen of the arts. It must mean something. The pieces have to make sense and it has to be an honor to be part of it. That was for many years. We need to come back to that.

Broadway has become a theme park because we charge so much money; the shows should be in Orlando.

Something has to change. Management won’t do it. The unions won’t do it. But if Meryl Streep and Lin Manuel Miranda went to the governor and said, “This doesn’t work, give us three theaters on 18th Street.”

if you really want to change something about diversity, then Broadway should make every show available for free once a month. [And offer tickets to] in every high school in the greater area for the next fifteen years. The door has to open. Nobody knows the theater at 174th Street in the Bronx. Somebody opens the door and they’re going to say, ‘Hey, maybe there’s a place for me.’

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